Even the local Farmers' Market isn't immune to the economic crunch we are all feeling. The summer edition of the Burlington Farmers' Market is in the middle of negotiations with the City of Burlington and is being faced with a rent increase that is staggering to the membership. The Burlington Farmers' Market, and markets around the state, have generally had a reduced rate on rent, or none paid at all, that shows the support from the community and the City that host the market. Entering into this year's negotiations, the Market knew that our rent would be increased due to the size and success of the Market. What we were presented with was a 4 1/2 times rent increase, resulting in our rent, which is paid to the Department of Parks & Recreation, equaling $16,640 for one season. Our previous rent was $3600 for one season. This amount was taken back to the membership of the Market and the majority of the members were blown away by the increase. The membership was given the opportunity to share their views with the the Steering Committee for the Market and another round of negotiations ensued. The second approach from the Department of Parks & Recreation was to phase the rent in over a three year period. The rent would be raised to $5500 for the first year but would go up over $5000 every year for three years, resulting in a fee of $17,000 being paid the third year of the contract. The Market was also informed that we would be responsible for our own trash removal which has always been included in the rent that we pay to Parks & Recreation.
At this point the Market chose to pursue a conversation with Mayor Bob Kiss. The reason for bringing the Mayor in was that the we feel like this is a policy shift in how the City views the Market. We are fully aware that the Market has had good deal in regards to the rent, and were prepared for a moderate increase but feel the proposals are unwarranted. We feel that the City has changed its views on local agriculture, local businesses, and the opportunity to provide an outlet for small businesses that are using the Market as an incubator to grow and expand. This rent increase is coming on top of the requirement that all of our vendors carry their own Product Liability Insurance, which is an added expense and another prohibitive factor for small businesses trying to join the Market.
The President of the Market and the Market Manager sat down with Mayor Bob Kiss to discuss how we feel this has and will impact the Market and its members. The conversation was very pleasant and productive in that we learned the City does love the Market and would hate to see it ever leave. However, no decisions were made or proposed by the City. The Market came out of the meeting, no closer to reaching a solution to the increase and still feeling slightly uneasy about the City's attitude towards the Market. A proposal was put forth by the President of the Market and agreed upon by the Steering Committee that it was time for the us to go public. The entire membership was notified that the next step for us would be to get the community involved. We are reaching out to local papers, politicians and Friends of the Market, our reasoning is to inform the community as to where we are at with the City of Burlington.
The Burlington Farmers' Market loves being in City Hall Park every Saturday from May to October. The Market views the spot as a great central locale for foot traffic coming and going to Church Street and the Waterfront. We believe that we bring people downtown on Saturday's and benefit the local businesses and restaurants. We enjoy showcasing all Burlington and Vermont has to offer tourist to the area and our consistent core of loyal customers. The Market does not want to leave the spot that is has been in for over 20 years, however if the cost is to high, it may be forced to look into other locations.
We are asking the community to get involved however they feel would be appropriate. Our landlord is technically the Department of Parks & Recreation because we set up in City Hall Park, a public park. Their address is:
PARKS & RECREATION DEPARTMENT
CITY OF BURLINGTON
Attention: Wayne Gross, Director
645 Pine Street; Suite B
Burlington, VT 05401
FAX: (802) 862-8027
If you have any questions please feel free to contact me.
Burlington Farmers Market